Introduction to current and future protein therapeutics: a protein engineering perspective

Exp Cell Res. 2011 May 15;317(9):1261-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2011.02.013. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


Protein therapeutics and its enabling sister discipline, protein engineering, have emerged since the early 1980s. The first protein therapeutics were recombinant versions of natural proteins. Proteins purposefully modified to increase their clinical potential soon followed with enhancements derived from protein or glycoengineering, Fc fusion or conjugation to polyethylene glycol. Antibody-based drugs subsequently arose as the largest and fastest growing class of protein therapeutics. The rationale for developing better protein therapeutics with enhanced efficacy, greater safety, reduced immunogenicity or improved delivery comes from the convergence of clinical, scientific, technological and commercial drivers that have identified unmet needs and provided strategies to address them. Future protein drugs seem likely to be more extensively engineered to improve their performance, e.g., antibodies and Fc fusion proteins with enhanced effector functions or extended half-life. Two old concepts for improving antibodies, namely antibody-drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies, have advanced to the cusp of clinical success. As for newer protein therapeutic platform technologies, several engineered protein scaffolds are in early clinical development and offer differences and some potential advantages over antibodies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / therapeutic use*


  • Antibodies
  • Proteins
  • Polyethylene Glycols